BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘concrete’

#365daysofbiking Brutality

Friday, October 16th 2020 – I’ve long been an advocate of Brownhills, my hometown, and the fact that it has some beautiful parts. Way more than many outsiders would ever expect.

But it’s also a fact that some bits are a bit grim, like with any town, particularly post-industrial ones in desperate need of regeneration.

Silver Court is not terribly unpleasant. It’s nothing like say, Windmill Lane in Smethwick West used to be, or some of the forlorn, decaying 1960s parades of shops in big city suburbs like Longbridge or Castle Vale. But it’s very much 60s, brutalist and in its final stages.

Ingeniously built clinging to a pronounced slope with a very split level design, it’s an odd, partially prefabricated row of shops with maisonette houses above, each with a small yard above the back of the shop premises accessed by a rear thoroughfare on top of the lowest level, the garages.

The shops are now about 50% occupied. The homes have problems with leaks and poor construction. There are issues with flytipping, and the parade frontage is grubby and dark.

But I’ve always love the view along it at night, deserted, with just the light of the ATM halfway up.

One day this edifice will go, and I’ll be glad I recorded this otherworldly place by night.

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#365daysofbiking A solved mystery

May 18th – Cutting back over Brownhills Common I remembered that I’d not recorded a mystery I solved a couple of months ago (because my photos then were too poor) – so I paid the site of a recovered childhood memory a visit.

When I was a child I remember walking over the common many times with my father, between the Chester Road, Parade and Watling Street School. I remember back then there being a fair sized, man made pool, surrounded by crunchy gravel, that in spring had frogspawn in it. At one end of the pool was a concrete rectangular bulkhead with a blue pipe protruding that trickled clear water into the pond.

There is no pool today, no gravel. I have looked for evidence of the pool on maps, aerial images and spoke to people about it. The only person I ever found who recalled it was fellow Brownhills historian David Hodgkinson.

Mooching over the common in spring, I nearly suffered a spill coming off a track by the corner of woodland into a ditch. Seeing a concrete block formed the edge of the ditch, I made a discovery.

It is certainly the concrete bulkhead I remember. It has a ten inch vitreous pipe in the centre, the protruding part smashed away, although it clearly once projected from the surface. The inside of the pipe is blue.

The site of the pond is now a copse, and bone dry. but it’s still a hollow.

I was astounded to find the site of this, which I’d convinced myself was a false memory.

Now, the site and pipe are clearly many years dry. I wonder who created it, and why?

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March 8th – At Telford, the piling for the footbridge project near the station is progressing apace, and the machinery in use is fascinating. 

Holes are being bored, reinforcing assemblies being placed within and concrete pumped in. The depth of the bores is extraordinary, and an army of workers in orange wait for their moment to undertake their assigned tasks.

This is a hugely complex project which has surprised me – I can now see why it’s costing so much.

August 20th – A much better, brighter day for me, but not the weather, which got worse as the day went on.

Out for a meal and a ride with someone I’d been missing while they were on holiday, a ride out to a local pub for a huge steak blowout and then a ride to work it off.

There was no wind, and I started in sun; but it soon became overcast and the rain started. But for once it didn’t matter. Returning home 50 miles later in darkness and soaking wet was actually a joy after a wonderful trip out.

Travelling up the A515 through Abbots Bromley, I noticed the modernist, brutal concrete Jubilee Memorial bench, which must be one of the first examples of a very particular municipal style; and then the Best Kept Village trophy sign, which lists all the winners since the competition in Staffordshire began, which is actually fascinating.

I do wonder why that’s in Abbots Bromley, though, and not somewhere else. It seems very… specific.

September 25th – Spotted in darkest Wednesbury whilst nipping out on an errand, a giant, concrete lego brick. 

How long have these been a thing? Why was I not informed?

A world where four-feet wide giant lego exists cannot be all bad. But why just use it as an anti-vehicle barrier and not build something instead?

A wasted opportunity, I feel…

August 28th – A bit of a strange day. I wasn’t planning on going to work, but ended up called in anyway. It wasn’t a bad commute as it happened, and the journeys were pleasant. On the way home, I passed over the The Bridge in Walsall town centre. It was while there that I spotted something I pass by loads, that is really part of Walsall’s furniture; the concrete hippo. It occurred to me that I’d never featured it here before.

Derided and loved in equal measure, this 1970s artwork has formed a meeting point for a couple of generations of Walsallians. Up until a decade ago, the hippo basked outside BHS, and teenagers, before mobiles and social media would agree to ‘see you by the hippo at 12 o’clock’ or somesuch.

For a while, the hippo image was even used to advertise the Walsall Show.

The story of how our town came to have this bizarre object is complex and not without some debate, but I think all true Walsall folk love it. There is talk of a renovation, of fixing the broken ear. I hope they go through with it.

Walsall is full of surprises. A concrete hippo – without any apparent rhyme or reason – is just one of them. And it’s lovely.

April 15th – I wasn’t going to mention this, I really wasn’t, but I’m finding it increasingly irritating. On some jobs, a spirit level is essential. Amongst these should be the jobs that nature holds a natural ruler to. The new concrete plinth atop the outlet culvert at Anglesey Basin, at Chasewater, is such a situation. The water below it will always be level. Consequently, the fact that the plinth was cast on top on the skew will always be visually obvious. I wince every time I see it. Unfortunate.

(For those not sure what I mean, the gap between the water and the underside of the plinth increases considerably to the left. It’s not an optical illusion, it actually does.)